Reducing water losses central to SE England’s future strategy
Europe Utilities Water storage

Reducing water loss central to SE England’s future strategy

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

A draft regional plan from Water Resources South East (WRSE) has set out the strategy to secure water supplies by focusing on cutting water leakage.

£15 billion of investment

Water Resources South East (WRSE) has set a draft regional plan from to secure water supplies by focusing on cutting water leakage.

It is a collaboration between the six water supply companies in the region, alongside regulators and stakeholders.

According to Global Water Intelligence (GWI) the plan would see the region produce 70 per cent of its extra one million cubic meters per day between 2025-2030 from fixing leaks and reducing consumption.

The WRSE has predicted that £15 billion worth of investment will be needed over the next fifty years to cut leakage, lower water use, build new water sources and transfer supplies to the water-scarce southeast region from other parts of the country to secure future supplies. 

The Water Services Regulation Authority, Ofwat, recently released provisional data on UK utilities' progress in reducing leakage, with three-quarters of UK water companies reportedly on track to meet leakage targets.

WRSE’s plan also included action to increase the region’s resilience to drought and avoid a possible 0.8 billion litre per day shortfall in water supplies by 2035.

The draft regional plan we have prepared for South East England makes the case for a long-term programme of investment in our water supplies.

WRSE said this could rise to 2.7 billion by 2075, around 40 per cent of the total amount of water provided daily by the six water companies across the region. 

"The draft regional plan we have prepared for South East England makes the case for a long-term programme of investment in our water supplies,” said Chris Murray, independent chair of WRSE.

He added: “It includes delivering significant reductions to how much water is used and wasted, new reservoirs so we can capture and store more water, transfers so water can be moved within and between regions, and schemes that will safely recycle water so it can be used again." 

The plan includes halving leakage from water companies’ and customers’ pipes, plus lowering household water use by around 40 litres per person per day by 2050. 

According to the WRSE, achieving this could provide more than half the water needed to secure supplies for the future, if given enough governmental support. 

The role of water reuse and desalination

The document sets out two plans for two time periods: 2025 to 2035, and 2035 to 2075.

Among the recommendations for the 10-year plan, WRSE suggests completing the construction of one new reservoir in Hampshire and building three more in Oxfordshire, Kent and West Sussex.

This would use the Grand Union Canal to transfer water from the Midlands to South East England and develop six water recycling schemes in Kent, Sussex, London, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to supplement our water supplies. 

One desalination plant in Sussex is also included.

In the 40-year plan, WRSE suggests the development of another six water recycling schemes across the region, the transfer of more water from the Midlands and the North West using the River Severn and the River Thames, and building a new reservoir in East Sussex.

The draft also considers storing extra water underground at three sites, and a further five desalination plant in Kent. 

Collaboration is key

This plan marks the first time that a regional plan of this nature has been drafted.

Speaking about the need for collaboration, Murray added: “It is critical that this collaboration continues beyond this consultation and through into the urgent planning and delivery of the schemes that will provide more water and the action needed to reduce demand, both of which are vital to securing our future water supplies.”

WRSE is one of five regional groups developing a regional plan which was a requirement of the Environment Agency’s National Framework for Water Resources published in March 2020.